Balikatan 2020 canceled due to Covid-19

By Benjamin Pulta

March 27, 2020, 4:04 pm

<p>Balikatan 2019 opening ceremony. <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Balikatan 2019 opening ceremony. (File photo)

MANILA – This year's Balikatan military exercises between American and Filipino troops originally scheduled from May 4 to 15 has been canceled due to concerns arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, officials from both countries' militaries said Friday.

"We are in extraordinary times at talagang kumbaga marami ring mapapahamak kung magpapatuloy pa rin yung Balikatan, malaking exercise yan eh. (It may cause harm if we proceed because it’s a large exercise). It involves thousands of troops in large movements so it is about time to cancel the Balikatan," Rear Adm. Adelius Bordado, co-director of Balikatan 2020 and chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Education, Training and Doctrine Command told reporters.

Bordado said as early as Monday, the cancelation was being considered amid concerns over the safety of the participating troops.

More than 10,000 troops from the two countries were supposed to take part in the annual exercises.

In a statement, the United States Indo-Pacific Command in Camp Smith, Hawaii echoed the decision to cancel the exercises "due to concerns for the health and safety of the participating forces and local population near the planned exercise area."

"In light of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding Covid 19 pandemic and in the best interest of the health and safety of both countries' forces it is prudent to cancel Balikatan 2020," Adm. Philip Davidson, US Indo-China Pacific Command chief, said in the statement.

Davidson added that the United States and the Philippines have shared values and enjoy a warm relationship that is deeply rooted in history.

"The US remains committed to the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty," he added. (PNA)